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Tiger Discusses 2012 AT&T National


Tiger Woods made an appearance Monday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., to talk to the media about the AT&T National, a tournament that benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation.

After a two-year hiatus when the tournament was at Aronomink Golf Club near Philadelphia due to the 2011 U.S. Open being held at Congressional, the sixth AT&T National returns this year to Congressional June 28-July 1.

The $6.5 million tournament is one of five "invitational" events held by PGA Tour; it features a reduced field of 120 instead of the usual 156 players. Woods won it in 2009, the last time it was at Congressional. Nick Watney is the defending champion.

Besides Woods, also on hand for the presser was Greg McLaughlin, tournament director and head of the Tiger Woods Foundation, tournament chairman Greg Lamb, and a foundation scholarship recipient. Here's what Tiger and the other dignitaries had to say during their session with reporters.

GREG McLAUGHLIN: Welcome, my name is Greg McLaughlin, I'm tournament director and president and CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation. It's my pleasure to have you here at Congressional Country Club for what will be the sixth AT&T National played June 25 July 1. So we are delighted to be back here after two years in Philadelphia.

I would like to just begin by acknowledging AT&T, our title sponsor, and certainly thanking them for their support of this event, as well as a few of our founding partners, CDW, Intelligent Decisions, Lockheed Martin, and Pentagon Federal Credit Union. Also wanted to acknowledge Montgomery County who has really been a good partner for us since beginning here in 2007 when we came, and really all of the sponsors that make this event happen. All of the proceeds go to Tiger Woods Foundation, and that gives us an opportunity to grow our foundation in this community and we appreciate all their support as well.

The host, which will be the fourth year Congressional Country Club, certainly goes without saying, what a wonderful golf course, clubhouse and facility that this venue really is; so I wanted so thank the board, the staff, and certainly all of the members for having us. And with that, I would like to introduce the tournament chairman and vice president, Greg Lamb, just to say a few words on behalf of the club.

GREG LAMB: Thank you very much. On behalf of the membership, the board of governors, and all of our members, we want to welcome you here today for the 2012 AT&T National. We are happy and had the honor to play the course today. I'm sure that when you were out there, you noticed how amazing the repair has been (inaudible) and we are looking forward.

GREG McLAUGHLIN: First generation, students like 95 percent of our scholars, so I would like you all to give them a round of applause. As they each come up.

DARRYL ROBINSON: Thank you for the kind introduction, Greg, and I would like to share a few remarks I would like to share with you all today. Hello, my name is Darryl Robinson, I was born and raised in D.C., and I arrived as an Earl Woods Scholar. I'll be sharing with you my first year experience as well as how the Tiger Woods Foundation and Earl Woods Scholar program helped me. I think with the plethora of challenges of Georgetown my first year and the graduate from D.C. school system, I felt unprepared for the Georgetown lifestyle. This was because I felt that the public school didn't push me hard enough to be what I needed to be. I recently wrote an article for the Washington Post entitled, I Went to One of the Best Schools in D.C., which in my humble opinion is true.

I wasn't pushed hard enough to the point where I couldn't understand the basic level of chemistry that was expected for every student in my course. Fortunately, I was provided a mentor from the Tiger Woods Foundation. My mentor, Jake is here with us today. Jake shared a similar academic path as me and mentored me with my science courses. I am thankful for the Tiger Woods Foundation and Earl Woods Scholars for providing me with life developing work opportunities and aiding me in my three years. Thank you for your time.

GREG McLAUGHLIN: Obviously this is a big military community and this is something that when we started here in 2007, it was very important for Tiger and our foundation to support the military and a lot of the things that we had done here, have really become an institution on the PGA Tour and you see it week in and week out when you turn on and watch PGA Tour and professional golf. We are quite proud of what we have been able to establish here. Many of the things you're familiar with, the 30,000 tickets that we donate, caddies will caddie Wednesday on 17, which is the par 4. And then Lockheed Martin is supporting a tent that any retired and/or active will be entertained in this tent throughout the week Wednesday through Sunday, which is great.

Last year we established what we call the We Salute Our Heros Wall which is a 36 feet by 10 foot wall where people can come and write a note to a soldier and from that, we edit, cut and distribute in various places, USOs and airports and Walter Reed and just various places that they can kind of capture. We didn't know whether or not we were going to fill one wall and we ended up filling four walls, which was really pretty amazing. I think that you'll be impressed. We also have a military care package tent, so you can pack a bag that can be accept abroad. We are quite proud of that.

With respect to the tournament, we expect another good field, certainly to come back and follow up to the U.S. Open, which was here, and we certainly think the golf course speaks for itself, and it's something that we think it will be a great competition and a great test. Early commitments that we have, we have four out of the five depending champions, including Nick Watney, Justin Rose, Tiger Woods, K.J. Choi. I'm sure many of you have heard that Anthony Kim who won our 2008 event is taking an indefinite leave due to some injuries, so he unfortunately will not be with us. But other notable players, Hunter Mahan, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Martin Laird, Dustin Johnson, Sean O'Hair, Jim Furyk, Y.E. Yang, Kyle Stanley, Ben Curtis, and those are the early commitments right now. Players have until Friday the 23rd to commit.

Also in keeping really with the tradition of the event, we have had a big commitment around amateurs. We have had past U.S. Amateur Champions, NCAA Champions, as well, so we are very proud to have Kelly Kraft, who won the U.S. Am last year playing, as well as Patrick Cantlay, who was the runner up in the U.S. Amateur who is also the low amateur here at the U.S. Open and was also low amateur at the Masters this year; as well as Jordan Spieth, who is with one of the stars of the University of Texas golf team that will be competing next week at Riviera in the NCAA championships. So we think that we have a very nice field. Golf course is going to be a par 71, 36 35, a little different than the way we did it previously, but again, great week, great test of golf. So with that, I'd like to introduce the 2009 champion, Tiger Woods, to make a few remarks and then from there, we'll open it up to questions. So, with that, Tiger, please?

TIGER WOODS: Thanks, Greg. Well, it's great to be back. This is obviously an incredible event for us with the foundation and what it does for us, what it allows us to do and the kids that we are able to impact; it's a pretty amazing time we have had in our foundation, how fast we have grown since our Learning Center campus in 2006 opened up. Now we have served just over 65,000 kids, just on campuses alone, and now with the Earl Woods Scholars, we had 70 and then 25 specifically from the D.C. area, so it's pretty exciting for us.

This tournament allows us to basically broadcast what we are trying to do and how we are trying to help kids around our country and eventually the world, so first off, I want to thank AT&T and obviously the people here who are involved in the tournament from Congressional. It's an amazing golf course. I know that I didn't play it last year unfortunately, but hopefully we can make it a little more difficult so the scores won't be so low. But as I said, this is an exciting time for us, and as we saw earlier with Darryl and the things that he's going through, I can personally - I had a luncheon previous to this, and I can personally attest to what he went through in college. I remember I went to a public school, as well, in southern California and ended up fortunate enough to go to Stanford University.

When I got there, I, too, found myself not prepared, not challenged enough, and not ready. The first couple of quarters were definitely eye opening at the level of intensity and level of preparedness that one needed to enter college. Hence, what we are trying to do with the Earl Woods Scholars and all 70 and continuing, is much needed, this is something that we need to do, something that we need to have mentors like Jacob here who has volunteered his time to show Darryl the ropes. These are very important in the kids lives and their development. So with that, I want to thank you for all coming here.

Q. Ten years ago, you and I sat over in a range in Las Vegas and talked about this foundation, with what's gone on in the last two years, sometimes this has taken a back seat which is unfair. Is it where you wanted to be at this point and is it moving as fast as you wanted it to? Hopefully during tournament week Brandel (Chamblee) will talk more about the foundation instead of your golf swing. Rumor has ithe's talking about connecting with Sean, that you're going to take him on as your coach (inaudible).

TIGER WOODS: First off, we have opened a couple campuses in that duration, and right now we are very close to doing some stuff overseas, that said, specifically the first place I want to go to is my mother's home country. That's very important to me. My father was alive, and so he got the chance to see and visit and be a part of the Learning Center opening in Orange County. I want to do something like that with my mother in her home country, and things of that nature are starting to take shape. So we are very excited about that for the foundation. As far as the second part of your question, so be it. (Laughter).

Q. I spent a lot of this morning with wounded soldier, and they talked about their love and appreciation of you, and I just wanted to talk about how that relationship between you and them had grown over the years and why that's so important to you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, that's something I grew up with. I grew up as a military dependent. My father had already retired from Special Forces, and I grew up playing the golf course called the Navy Golf Course. And that's where most of the people who did play were either active or retired military; so men and women. So that's basically what I grew up around. I know firsthand what they go through as far as training; I've experienced it; I've been there; I've seen it. The guys that I grew up with were friends of my dad's who were in Special Ops as well and did other duties around the world. I know the sacrifices they make. It's tough. It's really tough on the individual. It's extremely difficult on the families, and then on top of that, if you ever get injured, you're unfortunately left in limbo a lot of times.

So what everyone has done here in Walter Reed is just absolutely incredible. Trust me, I appreciate everything they do, because I know by watching and living it with my father how difficult that life is, and it's so underappreciated. They put their lives on the line each and other day, and I don't think we say enough thank-yous for what they do.

Q. After winning in 2009, how difficult was it to watch on TV?

TIGER WOODS: It was a tough little final round. I was playing with AK. AK, I believe, birdied the first hole right out of the gate and took the lead, and I kind of got the lead by the turn, but on the back nine, Hunter went crazy. I believe he shot a 62 that day, I believe, 63-62. I had to basically battle the last I think three or four holes with Hunter already posted and that was a tough one. It was a hard earned win, and unfortunately I wasn't able to be back for the U.S. Open, because I love playing the U.S. Open. As you all know, I would have played if I could have; just like in '08, if I could play, I would play. But unfortunately I was in a position where I really couldn't play. It's tough, because I missed out on a golf course that I know and that I've won on and that I like. So with those factors, it was difficult to sit back and watch. What Rory did was just absolutely extraordinary. He played some beautiful golf.

Q. A final word on Aronimink, how did you find the club's cooperation the two years you were there, and what do you feel its prospects are for hosting a major championship?

TIGER WOODS: I think Aronimink is a fantastic place. The membership and the board were absolutely incredible with us and what they are trying to do with our Learning Centers, opened one up there in the Philly area. It was great working with them. As far as the prospects of getting a major, absolutely. There's no doubt it's a golf course in which it can host a major championship, whether it be in a U.S. Open or a PGA, but probably a PGA. You can certainly see that happening. I think it would be just a great venue but I think the atmosphere would be incredible. As you all know, the Philly fans, they are really into their sport and I think that having a major championship there would be incredible.

Q. Getting back to Congressional, can you expand on what you like about this golf course and how difficult do you want it playing when you get here?

TIGER WOODS: Difficult, well, it's a big ballpark. If you play it from the tips, it's 75 plus, and par 71, that's a big ballpark. If you get it where there's a little bit of moisture in the fairways where they are not running and they are not chasing, then this golf course gets really long. It wasn't playing as long in '97 because of equipment, but this is probably the longest at the time we played a par-70 U.S. Open. So playing here this year, I would like to see it difficult. I always want to have this golf course difficult or any venue that we host it at. Unfortunately because I'm playing the event, I can't influence it that much - that much. (Laughter) Trust me, I always voice my opinion of how I like the golf course to be but ultimately it's up to the rules staff and how they want to set it up.

Q. What do you like about it?

TIGER WOODS: I think it's a fantastic tee to green golf course. You have to drive the ball well to get into some of these flags but once you get on the greens, there's a lot of pitch to these greens, a lot of movement, usually from back to front. And placing the ball in the correct spots is vital to give yourself a chance, because a couple of the holes, if you put it above the hole, you're not going to make the putt and sometimes more likely you're probably going to end up 3 putting unless you make a six- or 10-footer.

Q. Yesterday there was another slow play incident at the LPGA and Match Play. Probably cost Morgan Pressel the match. She lost a hole and thought she was 3-up. I wondered if you had a take or if you knew exactly what happened.

TIGER WOODS: I don't. You just explained it for the first time. (Laughter).

Q. Glad you follow the LPGA.

TIGER WOODS: So she didn't win her match?

Q. What happened was she birdied a hole, they were on the clock. She birdied a hole, and she thought she was 3-up and then she was informed she had actually lost the hole and so she was penalized a hole and she was only one up, and ended up losing the match. I know you said at Players, it shouldn't hurt you in the pocket book, you should be assessed; do you think that was a fair severe penalty or severe?

TIGER WOODS: Match play is different. If you get any kind of violation in match play, it's a loss of a hole automatically; whereas in stroke play, perhaps you can play through it. I believe, I'm not 100 percent certain on this, but when you appeal on match play, obviously it has to be determined before you tee off on the next hole. So if she's already teed off on the next hole then it's a moot point.

Q. This was before she side off they informed her.

TIGER WOODS: So obviously she lost the argument, right. It's unfortunate that it happened to her. You know, but that's unfortunately part of the game. It's unfortunately a little bit slower. I remember we were talking about this last week when we were playing the Players, and I was telling some of the guys I was playing with them, I played a practice round with Tom Weiskopf at the British Open at Troon where he won. And he was telling me back in whatever it might be, the early 60s or mid 60s, whatever he was playing, that one of the years that they had a continuation on the green rule policy for a year that there's no marking the ball.

If you were in the person's line or going to step on the line, you could mark it. If you weren't, if you were free and clear, then you had to play. That was a rule for a year until they changed it back. But I don't think we need to go to that extreme, but I certainly think that we need to speed up play and we need to get a little bit faster. We are the figureheads of our sport, and if we are taking, you know, 5 1/2 plus, sometimes close to six hours to play a three ball, that's not acceptable. As I said last week when we were talking, college golf is allowing the use of lasers just to try and speed up play. I thought that was drastic. But they are trying to do whatever they can to speed up play.

Q. Do you see the PGA Tour taking some measures?

TIGER WOODS: It's going to have to go through the policy board, and obviously the PAC, and then the policy board. So it's going to take time. Do I see that happening this year? Obviously, no. But you know, down the road, I certainly could see there could be some type of adaptation somewhere. There's got to be some type of change. Where that change is, we'll find out.

Q. Do you see any connection at all between the continued future success of the Foundation and your future success on the golf course?

TIGER WOODS: Well, right now, the great thing about that is that they are not together, and that's the way I wanted it to be. Because I could be dead here in the next 30 seconds, but I want this foundation to live on for perpetuity. I want them to have the ability to be able to send kids off to college, to make their lives better, and that was the whole reason why we created -well, one of the reasons, one of the main reasons why we created the Learning Center in Orange County is to get away from the circuit atmosphere of doing junior golf clinics around the country. We did a lot of them for a number of years, but there was nothing concrete looking for substantial enough that I thought would leave an imprint for an ability for the kids to use their entire lives.

But what we are doing now for education certainly is, and certainly has impacted a number of kids around our country and eventually around the world. So they don't really need me winning golf tournaments. They don't need me participating on the golf course, period. This is about education. This is about kids making something of themselves and then obviously giving back and becoming mentors themselves.

Q. We know that the foundation and the Learning Center started with golf, and now this tournament is taking a turn where you can help Wounded Warriors. The summer camp that you have this year brings it all together; talk about how that can help the families of Wounded Warriors?

TIGER WOODS: I think coming together and being together is healing. Nobody understands what they are going through except for the men and women actually going through it themselves. And to be able to share their experiences and come together in a cohesive group is probably the best way to heal. I just think that it's much needed. It's too long in the waiting, and I think that we can do something like this each and every year. And it doesn't even have to be summer camps. This could be something that we do year round.

Q. So the emotional thing is in addition to math and science?

TIGER WOODS: Absolutely.

Q. How will you know you're back? Will it take something clicking on the range? Winning a tournament or major? How do you know you're back to where you want to be?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I won a tournament already. (Laughter). Okay. I think that (chuckling) I'm headed in the right direction. You have to understand, even when I've had some really good years, whether it was in the early 2000s or mid 2000s, whatever it is, even if I was winning golf tournaments, I still felt like I could improve and I could still get better each and every day. I never looked at it and said, wow, that's my weak. I can get better. If that was the case, I would have walked. Myself, like anybody who plays this game, I think we can get a little bit better. I'm just going to continue to try and improve, incremental steps and every facet of my game, and make every facet of my game more efficient.

Q. Just to follow up on that just a little bit, is it fair to judge you by some of your past success? Is it fair to putt that expectation out there that you should win six times, seven times, eight times in a year, or is that impractical now?

TIGER WOODS: Well, that would be nice if I did win it. But you know, I've been through this before. I remember I had a pretty good year in 2000. And I didn't win for a couple months. And the word, "slump" came about. And that's basically the same thing that just happened here. I just played three events, and "When are you back?" Well, I just won a tournament three tournaments ago. So it's one of those things where we are all trying to get better, we are all trying to improve. If I get more efficient at what I'm doing, then I'm going to win golf tournaments.

Q. Particularly in the context of this week and this tournament, what would it mean to your foundation? What will you feel personally about having your legacy reassessed by the shot, by the tournament, by the week?

TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as the event, the event is bigger than what I do on the golf course. It's about Darryl and others, and all of the Earl Woods Scholars, all of the kids we are helping all around the country with our Learning Center campuses. We have had - since 2006, we have had 65,000 kids who have benefited from what we are trying to do. That's only in four locations. I think that's a pretty good feat in itself. We are just going to expand all that, and that - this week, tournament week, is a showcase of that. What we are trying to do, and trying to get more people to understand what we are trying to do and get more people into a cause. We just raised a 100,000 on Facebook with the majority of the people donating a dollar, $5, $10, and 20 bucks. That's what we were able to do. And all of that is going to go to kids to send them off to college and support them. That's what tournament week is about for us as a foundation. For me as a player, then that's a separate designation. As a player, I want to win the event. But I think me as a person, as a whole, as part of the foundation, then it's bigger than hitting a golf shot.

Q. You've said this year that physically you feel better than you have in a long time. In terms of the mental part of the game, when you were at the top of your game, everybody talked about how mentally tough you were. How do you feel about that aspect of the game, and how do you - is that more difficult to measure?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that one of the things that I am proud of is the fact that I do grind it out. Certainly if I would have packed it in over the course of my career, I would have missed the a lot more cuts over my career, especially of late when I have not been playing well. But I fight. I grind it out. That's something that I am proud of. It's just that unfortunately I haven't been able to equate that into W's, because it's one shot here and there. Sean was telling me the other day, was pretty pre found, if I had improved by final round by two shots, I would have had four wins this year. That's something if I look at it, at things like that, I'm close, and just got to keep going.

Q. Just to follow up on that, are you more patient now in terms of the swing changes than you were when you made them with Butch and when you made them -

TIGER WOODS: I am far, infinitely more patient, infinitely; I have two kids. As we all know, who are parents, it makes you more patient, that's for sure.

Q. Have you ever witnessed a player (inaudible).

TIGER WOODS: You know what, yeah, I witnessed it firsthand, Sergio in 2002 at Bethpage. I played with him in the final round. People probably forget that. But the fans were kind of on him a little bit at times, telling him to expedite a golf shot. (Laughter). Yeah, I witnessed it, and you just - you don't even pay attention to it. I knew Sergio was struggling with that part of his game, and so be it. So other guys are playing slow; just play your own game and go about your own business.

What I have not seen, I've seen guys waggle like, that or Sergio might used to re group, but I've never seen anybody air ball it and come down and air ball it and then come book and reset. What I was an amateur growing up, that used to be a penalty. Even if you had intent, stopped the intent, and had no intention to hit the golf ball because something was wrong, if the club had passed the golf ball, that was a shot. So somewhere along the line, I think the rules have changed. But to see him air ball it and then come back, and not back off, set back up, and stripe it right down the middle, is pretty amazing to see.

Q. Is it a distraction -

TIGER WOODS: No, you know that going in. That's just the way it's going to be. Just play your own game. It doesn't change the fact that I'm going to hit a high draw here or a low fade here or position my golf ball. That doesn't change anything. I still have my time to hit my shot. The only thing that it does effect, if it ever does, if you get on the clock, and it's not your fault being on the clock. And if you fall too far behind - then it becomes a little more difficult, but then it may alter; the wind comes up, you back off your shot. Well, I can't back off a shot if I'm on the clock; things of that nature do occur.

Q. We've watched you for years, and I'm a golf nut, can you say that in 2000, one of your good years, you were less mechanical and more feel? Have the swing changes you've made make you so mechanical now that you can't let your athletic ability take over?

TIGER WOODS: I think the changes that I made with Butch when I first made them, I struggled with them, because they were mechanical. And a couple years later, they kicked in and I did pretty good in '99 and 2000. Same thing with Hank, they were mechanical changes and eventually with reps, then it becomes more natural. The problem with Sean is that I was hurting most of last year. So I didn't get the number of reps or the time to spend to work on my game, and now it's starting to come. I've had some pretty good results this year. Not great results, but it's getting better and it's getting more consistent.

That's something that I have to look at in the big picture, the changes that I've made and how long it takes and how many reps it takes. Eventually, it does - you're right, it becomes - see the shot, hit the shot. But it's all within what your coach wants you to do. What Butch wanted me to do is different from what Hank wants me to do or did or what Sean wants me to do. But it takes the reps before it becomes part of your motor patterns.

Q. Speaking of results, I want to go back to the foundation again, you've had phenomenal results in this town and what you've done with the foundation, you're going back to Thailand again; I don't think there's much doubt now that the Tour is going to at some point in the next two or three years spend two, three, four weeks in Asia. Have you had discussions with the Tour yet? Can you see the foundation and AT&T and everybody else being a title sponsor of one of the tournaments, whether it be in Thailand or someplace else?

TIGER WOODS: Well, as far as the focus of that, we are focused on education and we have enough golf tournaments as it is. That's not our focus. Our focus is getting more Learning Center campuses, getting more kids involved in our programs and bettering their lives. If there is a golf tournament and it fits into what we are trying to do, then yeah, we are going to take a look at it. We are not going to say no to that and cut it off right now. But right now, that's not our focus. Nothing has been brought up of that nature. Right now we are focused on growing what we have in the States and eventually moving into my mother's home country and beyond.

Q. You're judged on every swing, every shot, every tournament, every week -

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that's the nature of the new media business. The reason why I say that is obviously with the new 24 hour news cycle and all of the different medias that that are now, there's so many different ways for people to get information. And I think that we have talked about it a number of times on Tour with myself with other players is that there is so many different ways that we can - so many different ways in which news is reported. You've got to be able to stand out somehow to get eyes going to your site or to your media, and I think that's one of the reasons why there's the criticism that there is. I was looking at it the other day, if LeBron didn't have a good game, then the Heat are done and he should retire. I'm like, geez, guys, he just won MVP. But I think that's just the nature of the volatility of the new media in which we are involved in now.

GREG McLAUGHLIN: Well, everyone, thank you very much. Look forward to seeing everyone at the tournament this year. Thank you.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.